Luther began his Catechisms with the Ten Commandments. The order of the chief parts in the commandments is for a reason, following a particular logical order. The commandments are first, in part, because this is what people think of when they approach religion or think of God. “What is required of me?” The commandments lay this out very simply, giving ten things we should keep in mind as we order our lives.
But the commandments not simply a set of rules that God established to make sure we fit into a particular mold. Together, they describe the perfect life of those God created in His image. When He created Adam and Eve, they knew God in a very personal way, and did not allow anything else to interfere with that relationship, until they listened to the serpent and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But before that, there was no murder, no adultery, no covetousness. Only after the Fall did mankind turn away to serve their own selfish goals.
After the Fall, the ten commandments point us to the life God desires for us. He does not want us to struggle with sin and its consequences. So He commands us to live in ways that are beneficial to us. Ultimately, all commandments point to the first commandment. If we have no other gods—if we fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we will not break the other commandments. In our present state, that does not happen. We constantly and continually turn to other gods. We look for comfort, protection, and security in other places and in other things. So we are in a lifelong struggle trying to keep the Lord’s commands.
As we study the ten commandments, we recognize that we do not keep them. But we learn something more. We learn something about ourselves: who we are and where our desires are. The commandments tell us more about ourselves than they tell us about God. We see that we are sinners and cannot save ourselves. We begin to look for an answer—we look for a savior for our sin. Hopefully, when we become aware of our sin, we turn to Jesus, who came to save us from our sin (Matthew 1:21). Jesus, true God and true Man, kept the commandments . . . not just to show us that it can be done, but in our place and for us, so that we would receive His righteousness. Therefore we fear, love, and trust in Him.